Tuesday, July 31, 2012

First Football Match

A few weeks ago, while waiting on Rachel's flight to arrive, I spent the day in Kyiv wandering around with my friends and Yulia and Vita. These girls know more about the city than I ever think I will learn. We bought cheap tickets to an evening soccer match and then waited out the day by eating and people watching. The stadium (pictured below) we went to was built for the Euro Cup and is amazing. It's decked out in Ukrainian colors. I loved it. Yulia told me long ago that her favorite part of the Euro Cup coming to Ukraine is what changes will left long after. The stadium is a big one. 

The energy of the Dynamo fans (the team we were rooting for!) was awesome. They were screaming and laughing and swearing and making quite a racket. Rows of people were chatting like they were family. Yulia and Vita taught me when to scream - they were very impressed with my ability to make noise - and a few football commands to bark out so I could appear to be a real fan. Yulia goes to the matches all the time and I'm pretty sure I will attend a few more. Can't let my high hitched squeal go to waste! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bringing the Cows Home

Every evening, someone heads out - across the street, to school, over to another field - to retrieve our two milking cows who graze daily. The job gets passed around. I tag along when ever I can. Once released for their field posts, they walk free going home. At first, roaming cows around me completely freaked me out. They seem to move slow but can gain speed far quickly than myself. When they want to go somewhere, they go. I didn't know how to move them back to right path until I was given a switch and taught a few combinations. Lucky for me, the commands are like "Where are you going? Let's go home?" phrases I say all the time to other people. So, now, I just talk to the cows like they are people. 'Hello. How are you? Good morning. What did you do today? What did I do? Well, let me tell you..." The family gets a kick out my cow monologue. The cows are empathetic listeners who don't interrupt while I practice my language.

Our family sells milk each week to others in the village. Our girls stay fat and happy and milked three times a day. Luda and Baba Katya share the milking responsibility. The rest of us do other things - feeding, walking, removing poop, working the calf. Here are some images about our cow business.

 The new male calf during his first trip into sunlight. Now, two and half weeks later, he is triple this size in height and width and weight. 

 Our cats know what's up. With a slight gesture of their paw on the bucket, Luda sends some milk over to Momma Cat. 

 Luda and Baba Katya working with their girls. 

 We made a trip to the other side of town to our hay field. We drove past a house where the Dubovas lived for 15 years before moving into the pink house. They still own this property so they grow hay and grasses for winter cow feed. 

We had to clear away a tree that had fallen since their previous visit. 

Picking up the hay and storing it away. These people never stop working. They are amazing. 

 Soon I will have updates about my new home, new town, new school. It's all for the good. Brand new adventures, neighbors, and babas are waiting to be discovered. My next town, Zvenihorodka, is only 45 minutes (by bus) away so I will be able to come back if I want to. Summer isn't over yet. I'm excited to see what the next few weeks before school will hold for me! 

Pink House Extensions

As spring became summer with the Dubova family, our large house welcomed a several, smaller farm members. Here's a post about them! It's my daily delight to check out how much each creature has grown over night. 

 Our baby kitten. The photo below is from his first day at home. Now, he is out roaming around and killing mice. 
 Poppa Dog - Bleeaja - he prefers to jump for his food. 
 Momma Dog - Hika - and her two little boys. 
 Hanging with my pups during their nightly run. 
 Found this little guy outside of his house, with his eyes open, exploring the yard! 

Everyone headed out back this week to pick raspberries for compot, jam, baking, winter prep, etc. 

 While we picked berries, our furry neighbors came out to say hello. 
This is Sinator - almost like Senator - who lives to the right. 
He looks vicious but he and I are good friends. 
 A goat friend from the left. 
He was curious about the construction noises. 
He also found Sasha's hair particularly interesting. 

''the big pink house next to the post office''

Today is the my final day to live in the 'big pink house next to the post office'. The Dubova family - Peter, Luda, Sasha and Masha - invited me into their home on short notice about 3 months ago. They tossed me and all my stuff up a steep staircase to inhabit a beautiful, second floor room with a balcony view of our property and pond. We've spent a lot of time figuring each other out and having some laughs. They taught me about life on their farm. We work the cows, grow the veggies, pick the berries, and prepare the feast when all the relatives show up. I am so happy here.

Not every day has been perfect. I've spent many meals struggling to understand the swift flow of conversation around me. I almost messed up the washing machine by putting too many clothes in it. I've gotten myself locked out of the house or driveway and had to call for help. But Luda and I both love ice cream after dinner (almost every day) so I've gotten to sit around, listen to stories, and tell my own. Peter laughs pretty easier so if I can make him giggle (with a joke or tripping over myself) I am successful for that day. Masha and her boyfriend, Roma, visit often and love to try out their English with me. I will miss their accented "Good Day" each Saturday morning. Masha works at a hair salon in the next town over so she tries out new braiding style on me. I usually end up almost falling asleep since the braiding feels more like a head massage. Sasha has never stopped helping me. He always figures out I am searching for in the kitchen and find it for me. He introduces me to anyone who visits as "Our American Girl". His girlfriend, Vika, (who I didn't think liked to talk much) confessed that she loves to take photos but was nervous to ask me about it. So we had an impromptu lesson at Sasha's birthday party.

The Dubovas have a great amount of relatives in our village so I have gotten to know Baba Katya (there is a photo of her earlier at a picnic), Natasha, Sasha, Ira, Vladik, and a tremendous amount of neighbors. The Dubovas are famous for their generosity, big parties, and fresh milk. I'm lucky that I spent several weeks being among them. The Dubovas also have an array of animals: four cows, six pigs, dozens of chickens, four rabbits, two dogs, and two cats. Early summer, we gained a calf, several chicks, two puppies, and a kitten! After days of cuddling and cooing, I was formally given the job of taking care of the little ones. I held the puppies just hours after they were born (honestly, I didn't know their momma was pregnant) and let the calf chase me down the driveway during its first visit to sunlight.

Just a few days ago, Luda, Peter, and I discussed where my new town is and when I am going to visit. Peter asked me again about my family at home. Names. Jobs. Ages. The conversation switched to the subject of what I will do when I return to America. Buy a house. Marry a men. Get a decent job. Raise pigs. Grow potatoes. Then Luda said the kindest thing an Ukrainian person has ever said to me, "You will come back here. You will bring back your husband and children so I can show them where you lived here. You will write me letters - Cassie, you must write in Ukrainian - letters because I don't know the Internet or Skype to tell me when you get married. Every time you have a baby you will write me a letter. When you take pictures. Send me photos too. We will write letters for many years after you leave. You to me, me to you." I'm gonna practice my writing.

the Whole Clan 

Just hanging out - on the roof - talking.

My domain aka second floor. 
This is considered their 'small' farm. 
Lunch of young, summer peas. 
Remodeling Projects

Hired help has been working on the replacing the front door, sidewalk, and steps. Peter and Sasha tackled the back barn by themselves. 

Preparing cherries to make jam!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sugar Bees

This semester when I first met with my school administration to design my schedule I was told the my school will start teaching English in the first form next year instead of starting in the second form. So I asked, "Why don't I teach the kindergarten class to help them prepare." No one disagreed so I held two lessons each week (with the support and assistance of two awesome Ukrainian teachers) with 16 five-year-olds. Let me say, they are amazing. 

Some of them are still learning how to write and count in Ukrainian but they have mastered their English ABCs and 123s. They can introduce themselves like, "My name is Dana." We worked on colors and phrases like, "Good Morning" too. I am so proud to say most of them conquered it all. A few lagged behind but I found out these few just turned four and will be in kindergarten again next year. 

These little people have been my joy each week. To them, I'm a superstar. I am covered in hugs and kisses each Monday and Tuesday. If I let them, they would drag me into the floor by the shear volume of bodies pulling at my knees. They got best friends. They got crushes and love stories. Some of my little ones lack the essentials at home but, nevertheless, they show up ready to jump and sing with me. Whether is going on in my life or my mind is set aside for an hour so I can listen to stories about each bruise or bump. Their energy and passion for crayons or a shiny, new book remind me to slow down. To let myself simmer for bit. To soak up moments instead scheduling what should happen next. Their squeaky 'Hello" in shops or around town harmonize my life. Parents and grandparents stop me in the street to meet 'the teacher my kid keeps talking about'. I don't deserve their admiration or grand affection but I'll gladly take it. I'm never been so proud as when I overheard a few of the girls call each other the pet names I call them like, "Honey, what are you doing?" I adore each of them.  

My sweet Sugar Bees have left an impression in my heart and memory that won't soon fade. 

My sweet Ina.
She hardly speaks in the classroom unless directed but,
she yells at me from her house when I jog! 

Nazar and Maxim practicing a radiation drill. 

Each wonderful day of my life! 

Boldon and Ina.
The smallest and sweetest. 

Small but Tough 

Sugar Bees!

Slavic told me he loves America. 

Graduation Gowns

The boys ready to graduate.
Slavic headed straight to me for a hug.
Love it. 

At graduation, the teachers were introducing the children to their new 1st form teacher.
They used favorite food, animal, etc.
Boldon is raising his hand to answer the question, "Who likes to sleep the most?"

My precious Nazar holding dearly to his diploma.